Pet Sematary is back from the dead, and it’s a welcome if flawed resurrection.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two children Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Hugo Lavoie) are enthusiastic about their move from Boston to a new home in the country, until their neighbour Jud (John Lithgow) alerts them of a graveyard for the local’s pets within their own backyard. When the family cat is tragically killed by a passing truck, Jud reveals to Louis that the cemetery holds mysterious powers and can be used to bring animals back by burying them at a certain place deep within. But something evil has taken over the cat in its resurrection, and Louis soon learns that the cemetery can bring more than just pets back to life.
In the midst of a resurgence of Stephen King adaptations and remakes, there’s been great (It, Gerald’s Game) and not-so great (Cell, The Dark Tower). Directing team Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s (Starry Eyes, Holidays) slick revamp of Pet Sematary falls somewhere in the middle of that scale – leaning to the more positive side for sure, but still at times a victim to the inherent silliness of its premise.
The good news is that Kölsch and Widmyer keep the suspense dial turned to high throughout a good chunk of the runtime, which works largely to Sematary’s benefit. A few cheap jump scares early on are thankfully traded for long periods of breath-holding, often climaxing in effective and sparingly-used bursts of gore. The acting is great, with Jason Clarke’s loving father and John Lithgow’s weird but well-intentioned old neighbour sharing a good bond. The standout, however, is young Jeté Laurence as the Creed daughter, who successfully carries and transitions her character as she’s forced to play it darker in the film’s second half.
The dark look of the film helps keep the sinister tone intact, even if the charm the original held with its cheesy 80’s practical effects is sacrificed. The actors playing it straight helps this too for the most part, but eventually the ridiculousness of certain scenes come at odds with their seriousness and things begin to unravel. As increasingly silly events ramp up in the third act, it’s hard not to laugh at how nonsensical it all is.
Still, it’s a fun ride that delivers in creepiness and continues the case that most of Stephen King’s work should make for viable entertainment for years to come.
Pet Sematary is available in Australian cinemas from April 4
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures